Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Julien Doris – Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government has had to resort largely to its spending power to support the provinces and territories. In opening the first panel of the Conference on Fiscal Federalism, Gilbert Charland, Quebec’s Deputy Minister for Canadian Relations, highlighted two central issues for the future: the anticipated imbalance in health care spending (Conseil de la Fédération, 2021) and the updating of equalization parameters (The Globe and Mail, 2021). While discussing the constitutional elements and historical advancements of fiscal federalism, the following sections will also highlight some short- and longer-term economic issues.
Special Series: Fiscal Federalism in Canada – Author: Éric Desrochers – Opening session: Wednesday, April 21 (1:00 pm to 2:30 pm ET)
The opening session of the “Fiscal federalism in Canada” virtual conference was a panel of scholars and practitioners of fiscal federalism, featuring Louis Lévesque, Richard Bird, and Jim Dinning as panellists, and Madeleine Drohan as moderator. The panel centred on current issues in Canadian fiscal federalism and their interactions with the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as an introduction to two full days of discussions about fiscal federalism.
Author: Soumaya Marhnouj – In the age of digital technology, it has become the norm to rely more upon online applications for access to public services and programs as internet connectivity has proliferated. In Canada, 98% of households have access to fixed broadband internet access, and more than 87% have a home Internet subscription. Furthermore, over 88% of the population have a smartphone and 45% of them check their smartphone every 30 minutes. Not only are people more interconnected than ever, but technology is increasingly relied upon in a manner that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. We see this technological shift in almost every aspect of life; government actors, government services, and public information should be no exception. Federal and unitary governments worldwide are embracing – and being expected to embrace – technology in the exercise of their functions. Central and subnational governments can use these technologies to fulfill primary goals in service provision, including “improving efficiency and service quality by reducing service lead times, increasing transparency, and offering seamless service provision across organizations.” This practice is known as digital government.
Author: Victoria Rose King – Since the end of the Cold War, the frequency with which federalism has been adopted as a peacebuilding tool in deeply divided states has increased. This is due to its perceived “ability to satisfy the aspirations and demands of both minority and majority groups: giving minority groups (limited) control over their own economic, political and social affairs, while also sustaining the territorial integrity of the extant state” (Anderson & Keil, 2017).
Author: K. Hunter – Canada and Australia have long faced scrutiny for human rights abuses against their Indigenous populations since colonization. Consequently, Indigenous communities continue to struggle with gaining recognition and respect of their rights as colonial structures persist in the present day. However, efforts in both these countries by their Indigenous populations seek to change the way these relationships are viewed and interpreted, amid calls for both constitutional reform and greater recognition of Indigenous rights.
Author: Asma Zribi – The outbreak of COVID-19 impacted how governments operate and deliver services, including security. The pandemic shone a spotlight on governance shortcomings in supporting the most vulnerable and underrepresented populations, who have been disproportionately impacted in health and economic terms. State security providers, in their turn, have been required to cooperate with public health authorities, adapt to rapidly changing emergency regulations, and provide services that are not generally within their mandates.
Author: Emilie Tremblay – While there are over two dozen countries that can be considered federal states, these countries and the composition of their political systems vary greatly. The commonality they all share is that each has at least two orders of government, referred to here as the central and constituent governments, to which specific authorities and responsibilities are allocated by constitutional provision.
Author: Julia Pelletier – Nepal is currently in the midst of implementing a democratic and federal model of governance, although this is not without it’s own challenges and opportunities. While the shift in powers and responsibilities from the central government to local and provincial governments will allow subnational actors to make decisions better representing the needs of local populations, many debate the current distribution of power and there is often tension between the different levels of government on a variety of issues.
Author: Deanna Senko – In early 2021, the global community passed the one-year mark since the beginning of the pandemic caused by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. As of May 9, 2021 there have been 157,289,118 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 3,277,272 COVID-related deaths (WHO, 2021). This pandemic has forced many national and subnational governments to impose physical distancing, travel restrictions and lockdown measures as a means to slow the spread of the virus.
Author: Mark Friedman – In a landmark ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s signature piece of climate change legislation as compatible with the country’s federalism framework. Three provincial governments challenged the law, arguing it unconstitutionally intruded into their legislative powers. The court’s decision offers important lessons for national governments elsewhere wrestling with how to address the international climate crisis while respecting the rights of subnational governments within their federations.